When we decided to spend 14 days in Malawi with the kids we knew we wanted to get involved in some community projects. We had done this in Rwanda the year before and we knew how rewarding it could be. One of the best afternoons I had with the kids was watching them proudly as they got stuck into reading with all the kids who attended the Book Bus Centre about 25 kms north of Mangochi near Lake Malawi.
The Book Bus have been working in Malawi since 2010. Their local teams work with 5 schools and they also run the only community library in the Mangochi district. The Book Bus’s mission is that it is committed to changing lives one book at a time.
Why not check out our full post about our 14 nights Malawi Family Holiday with Responsible Safari Company!
We had the most wonderful time at the Book Bus that afternoon and if you are debating whether you should visit with your kids then the answer is most definitely yes. The visit had initially only been planned for and hour and a half but at 4pm when we were due to leave the girls were still enjoying themselves it seemed a shame to move them on.
When we arrived, we found around 50 children reading books inside and out. The Book Bus team showed us around the library they have in the Mangochi District and much to the girls delight they recognised lots of the books. The books (all in English) have been donated mainly from the UK and so the library was not dissimilar to that at our local primary school. The Book Bus run different types of lessons every day and different children attend to take full advantage of the facilities and teaching.
On the day we visited the session at the Book Bus started with a book being read out loud for all the kids to hear. It was to be read in English and then translated into Chichewa so that all the children could understand the book.
My seven year old Lily volunteered to read out the book at the front of the classroom and was thrilled that it was her first time being translated. She read clearly and slowly, appreciating that this was important and her sisters sat watching her, with what looked a lot like pride.
After the reading the class was split into infants and juniors to do some painting. My three decided that Lily should sit with the older ones and Izzy and Eve should sit with the younger ones. They got stuck in with the painting, Lily chatting to the older ones who could speak English well, and the twins exchanging smiles and laughs with the younger ones too.
The Book Bus team explained that they mix up the activities throughout the week so that the kids get a chance to do lots of different activities when they visit. My three found it difficult to comprehend that these children wouldn’t have countless books at home and that painting would be a rare treat for them rather than a daily, fairly mundane, activity.
It was at the end of the painting activity that I think it was probably the usual time for the visit to end but the team asked if we would be willing to stay and listen to the older children read their books. I asked my three if they would be happy to do this and they happily obliged. Seeing them sat around the courtyard with children almost twice their age and confidently listening to them read, correcting them kindly and checking their comprehension was something that will stay with me (and hopefully them) for a long time.
We left the Book Bus very happy to have been a very small part for an afternoon in the challenge of changing the world one book at a time.
If you want to find out more about it do check out http://thebookbus.org/ and watch our video below, some of which was filmed at the Book Bus.